Working Out Loud

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

I came across an interesting and meaningful (at least to me) expression a while ago. It was in the context of demonstrating social project management software (yes, that’s an actual thing, and it looks like a pretty wonderful thing…but I digress). In describing the capabilities and intent of the software, one of the meeting participants described it as enabling people to “work out loud.”

For the most part, we don’t work out loud today. Whatever our assignments, our engagements or our commitments, we tend to take them away and focus on them quietly and in isolation. That is in part a hallmark of knowledge work; we largely do the work in our own heads. When the deliverables are done, we bring them into the light, handing them over and sharing them with others. Until it’s actually done, it’s simply “work in progress.” And when we discuss our work in progress, we often do so in relatively vague and evasive terms.

Asked how we are doing, we might say, “It’s coming along.” Or “I’m making good progress.” Or “A few hiccups, but nothing major.” Occasionally, you might here a “I’m having issues, but it’s nothing that I can’t sort out and get addressed.” When you get down to it, these noncommittal updates are the status equivalent of meaningless …

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